Gov’t announces interim work permit policy for exotic dancers

POSTED: 07/26/16 6:26 PM

St. Maarten News —Minister of VSA Emil Lee, has emphasized that the new interim policy governing the issuance of work permits to exotic dancers, will seek to ensure that these workers will not be forced by clubs and brothel owners to perform tasks they are unwilling to do. This interim policy was approved by government last week. Speaking at the Council of Ministers press conference on Wednesday, Minister Lee explained that the policy initially restricted brothel owners from offering money to these women while they are in their home countries. “The brothel owner is not allowed to provide money or loans to the adult worker entertainment worker prior to his or her arrival to St. Maarten with the aim to develop a financial dependency which will make him or her vulnerable which he or she do not want to do,” Minister Lee said.

However, he noted that the government tweaked the policy to allow money to be exchanged between the brothel owners and the women before arriving on St. Maarten, providing that they are not obligated to perform tasks at the clubs against their will. Their travel documents must also not be confiscated by the brothel owners, Lee explained. “Clubs would send money for girls in order to fund their travel expenses, in order to show money to immigration for example when they come, but then the girls may arrive and find either I was misled, it was misrepresented what my expectations were…but then some unethical clubs may say…before you go home you need to repay this money and therefore force you to do things that you are not willing to do and as a possible way to enforce that directive, they would take their travel documents and then prohibit them from leaving,” the minister explained.

Asked how the ministry will be able to monitor and supervise this policy to ensure that the brothel owners do not violate it or the rights of the women, Lee said the aggrieved women can file a complaint with the Labour Department. “If they feel they have been mistreated by their employer, they can come to the labour office and it’s the labour office’s role to protect the worker as is the case with any other worker,” Minister Lee said.

Meanwhile, Minister Lee made it clear that the Ministry of VSA is only obligated to give work permits to these women as exotic dancers and not as sex workers. “The only permits that we can sign off are work permits…we do not issue permits for sex workers; for prostitutes because that would create an agreement…between the company and the women to be obligated to perform sexual acts and obligating someone to perform sexual acts is something government cannot facilitate,” Minister Lee said. “The permits that we will be issuing are permits for dancers…which means that is the only work that they will be obligated by contract to perform. The adult entertainers cannot and shall not be forced to perform any sexual acts against their own free will,” Minister Lee explained. He said that the adult entertainment workers also have the right to terminate their agreement with the adult entertainment company.
On another note, the minister noted that there is another form of adult entertainment on St. Maarten flourishing outside the established and regulated clubs. He has cautioned such persons engaging in this practice, considering there are no regulations or inspections in this sub-sector.

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